The Download April 14 2022: Kenya’s mobile gambling problem and earthquake algorithms

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction

Mobile money has mostly been hugely beneficial for Kenyans. But it has also turbo-charged the country’s sports betting sector.

Since the middle of the last decade, experts and public figures across the African continent have been sounding the alarm over the rising popularity of sports betting. The practice has produced tales of riches, but it has also broken families, consumed college tuitions, and even driven some to suicide.

Nowhere, though, is the craze as acute as it is in Kenya, the country often dubbed Africa’s “Silicon Savannah” for its status as a regional tech powerhouse. But while Kenya’s mobile money revolution has played a well-documented role in encouraging savings and democratizing access to finance, today, it’s easier than ever for those in fragile economic circumstances to squander everything. Read the full story.

—Jonathan W. Rosen

A deep-learning algorithm could detect earthquakes by filtering out city noise

Cities are loud places. Traffic, trains, and machinery generate a lot of noise. While it’s a mere inconvenience much of the time, it can become a deadly problem when it comes to detecting earthquakes. That’s because it’s difficult to discern an approaching earthquake amid all the usual vibrations in bustling cities.

Researchers from Stanford have found a way to get a clearer signal. They’ve created an algorithm trained on tens of thousands of samples of seismic noise in cities. They claim it could improve the detection capacity of earthquake monitoring networks in cities. Places like South America, Mexico, the Mediterranean, Indonesia, and Japan could especially stand to benefit. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 TikTok has created a pro-war echo chamber in Russia
While anti-war hashtags and content has disappeared. (WSJ $)
+ Ukraine’s intelligence services are doxxing Russian soldiers. (Wired $)
+ Russians are hiding bombs and landmines across Ukraine. (NYT $)
+ The state of Russia’s trucks suggests its troops are struggling. (CNN

2 Millions are grieving loved ones lost to covid
And their mourning is made even tougher by the public’s desire to “return to normal.” (The Atlantic $)
+ Two omicron subvariants are sweeping across New York state. (NYT $)
+ Pfizer’s booster shot is effective in children aged between 5 and 11. (NYT $)
+ Robot dogs are patrolling Shanghai to ensure residents stick to its lockdown. (FT $)

3 Plastic batteries are cheaper and longer-lasting than lithium-ion
So it makes sense they could store renewable energy on the grid. (TR)

4 Elon Musk has offered to buy 100% of Twitter
He says if his offer is refused, he’s going to reconsider his position as a shareholder. (FT $)
+ It’s been a rollercoaster week for both Musk and the platform. (The Verge)
+ But he’s still being sued over claims he was too slow to disclose his shares in Twitter. (Sky News $)

5 How the joke conspiracy theory Birds Aren’t Real took flight 🦅 
Actual conspiracy theorists seem to really struggle to spot satire. (The Guardian)
+ A Capitol Hill rioter has blamed Trump for ordering him to storm Congress. (NYT $)

6 Mark Zuckerberg wants you to see the metaverse through his AR glasses
He thinks they’ll go on sale in 2024, but even that sounds wildly optimistic. (The Verge

7  A travel influencer wrongly claimed to be the first woman to visit every country
She was, however, the first to boast about it on social media. (WP $)

8 Endangered animals are still being trafficked through Facebook
That’s despite Meta’s promise to crack down on the practice years ago. (The Guardian)

9 At what age should we talk to kids about crypto?
What a question. What a time to be alive. (Vox)
+ The guy who bought an NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet for $2.9 million is struggling to sell it for anything other than a giant loss. (Coindesk)
+ Wikipedia has voted against receiving cryptocurrency donations. (Ars Technica)
+ Soccer clubs and crypto are not a good mix. (FT $)

10 Vending machines may exist until the end of time
They’re mostly unloved, yet relied upon by millions of us every day around the world. (The Guardian)
+ No, please, not an NFT vending machine. (Axios)

Quote of the day

“I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t come. I had to. I couldn’t sleep.”

—An American man tells The Guardian about his decision to travel to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ A fascinating look at what could be the world’s oldest dessert, though it won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
+ Whatever you do, watch out for these feisty geese.
+ This Smiths x Flo Rida mashup is living in my head rent-free.
+ If you hate shopping for jeans as much as I do, this guide is a must-read.
+ Wait, what—mushrooms speak to each other!?
+ This marine mammal livestream is healing my soul.+ May your weekend be as chilled as this capybara living its best life with some duck pals.

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